The Arts Scene
Published: October 10, 2011
Baltimore’s music scene has gotten a lot of national attention over the past few years, but its other arts are even now being transformed and built up through some of the same forces: long-standing, long-developing local institutions as well as an infusion of new practitioners (many young, some transplants). And sometimes a combination of all of the above: Kingpin professional theater company Center Stage has a new creative director in fortysomething British playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, the first new leader the theater’s had in nearly two decades and surely a force for substantial change. Baltimore’s visual- and performing-arts culture is rich and lively and well worth checking out. And here are some suggestions to help you do that.
Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive, (443) 573-1700, artbma.org
A city this size is fortunate to have a major civic museum with a collection as deep as the BMA’s (notably the impressionist-heavy Cone Collection), but that is also so spry and probing (though its estimable Contemporary collection is off view until a renovation of the building’s West Wing is completed in spring 2012). Print by Print: Series from Durer to Lichtenstein opens Oct. 30 and runs through March 25, 2012. Other than occasional special exhibits, the museum is free.
Walters Art Museum
600 N. Charles St., (410) 547-9000, thewalters.org
The Walters family collection continues to edify and delight Baltimoreans and their visitors after almost 150 years. Heavy on 18th- and 19th-century painting and sculpture, the museum’s collection extends back into prehistory and includes a substantial sampling of Asian art. Free admission, plus special ticketed exhibits.
American Visionary Art Museum
800 Key Highway, (410) 244-1900, avam.org
Devoted to the work of untrained “outsider” artists, AVAM offers long-running omnivorously themed shows—such as All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs and Karma, which runs Oct. 7-Sept. 2, 2012.
100 W. Centre St., (410) 783-5720, contemporary.org
Originally a museum without walls, the Contemporary continues to look beyond the confines of its permanent home, remaining restless and engaged with the city in its exhibitions (notably the ambitious Project 20 and Liste endeavors of 2010-2011). Free admission.
Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture
830 E. Pratt St., (443) 263-1800, africanamericanculture.org
The Reggie is a relative newcomer (est. 2005) and a history museum in at least part of its mission, but it also often offers engaging visual-arts programming.
Art Centers and Galleries
C. Grimaldis Gallery
523 N. Charles St., (410) 539-1080, cgrimaldisgallery.com
The oldest and perhaps most august gallery in town, Grimaldis represents rising artists such as sculptor Chul-Hyun Ahn and photographer Sofia Silva as well as hometown favorites such as Tony Shore and, yes, John Waters.
Creative Alliance at the Patterson
3134 Eastern Ave., (410) 276-1651, creativealliance.org
An indispensible arts hub in the heart of the city’s east side, the Creative Alliance’s rambling home in the old Patterson Theater encompasses everything from rotating visual-arts shows to film screenings to concerts, often with a street-level community-arts focus.
3000 Chestnut Ave., Studio 214, (410) 366-2001, goyacontemporary.com
One of the city’s top-flight pro galleries with an estimable artist list.
405 W. Franklin St.
An ad hoc gallery hive that represents perhaps the best one-stop shop for what’s new and interesting in local visual arts. Key spaces include the Whole Gallery (third floor, wholegallery.blogspot.com), Nudashank (third floor, nudashank.com, co-operated by City Paper contributor Alex Ebstein), and the excellent Gallery Four (fourth floor, galleryfour.net). And every now and then, the local arts scene sort of takes over the whole building, as with the Rooms Play performance-art events.
Maryland Art Place
8 Market Place, Suite 100, (410) 962-8565, mdartplace.org
A long-running nonprofit art hub that continues to offer worthy programming in the center of a downtown nightlife district.
Maryland Institute College of Art
1300 W. Mount Royal Ave., (410) 669-9200, mica.edu
Known to all as MICA (pronounced like the mineral), Baltimore’s venerable art school fuels much of the city’s creative foment as well as hosting school-year-long series of student exhibitions, touring shows, talks, and other events.
1700 N. Charles St., themetrogallery.net
A gallery, sure, but also a bar/nightclub and multi-use space, utilized and patronized frequently by Baltimore’s creative class.
School 33 Art Center
1427 Light St., (443) 263-4350, school33.org
Every Baltimore neighborhood should be so lucky to have such a vibrant and well-run arts hub (with studio space, fine shows, and community engagement) in its midst.
700 N. Calvert St., (410) 332-0033, centerstage.org
The city’s premier professional company offers a new season packed with classics (American Buffalo, Nov. 2-Dec. 11) and musicals (Into the Woods, March 7-April 15, 2012) as well as contemporary works such as Martin McDonagh’s A Skull in Connemara (Jan. 25-March 4, 2012).
1727 N. Charles St., (410) 752-2208, everymantheatre.org
A worthy rival/counterweight to Center Stage, this professional company has established itself firmly in the local theater landscape with solid, non-gimmicky programming and productions.
45 W. Preston St., (410) 752-8558, theatreproject.org
A generation of local audiences and artists have benefitted from season after season of this midtown black box’s short-run programming, which focuses on experimental, multimedia, and other undersubscribed sorts of performances.
Single Carrot Theatre
120 W. North Ave., (443) 844-9253, singlecarrot.com
With its dedicated company and ambitious programming, Single Carrot is in the vanguard of the city’s young theater scene.
419 E. Oliver St., myspace.com/copycatannex
The Annex’s first few seasons of productions (e.g., a 2010 live adaptation of cult animated film Fantastic Planet) mark it as one of the most vital and ambitious young companies in town.
1823 N. Charles St., (443) 874-4917, strandtheatercompany.org
Another young theater company, the Strand focuses on works written by women, a forehead-smackingly obvious and welcome mission. And mission aside, its work is worth getting excited about.
218 W. Saratoga St., (410) 962-8565, normals.com/14k.html
Programming at this long-running basement space is intermittent, but it remains a sui generis forum for local art, performance, and literary and musical activity.
Baltimore Playwrights Festival
Every summer, local theater companies choose and produce unproduced plays from Maryland writers, enlivening the usually dormant summer theater season.
Fells Point Corner Theatre
251 S. Ann St., (410) 276-7837, fpct.org
An ambitious community theater housed in an old firehouse in the center of one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods.
806 S. Broadway, (410) 563-9135, vagabondplayers.org
The oldest continuously operating community theater in the United States (since 1916), the Vagabond offers a lively slate of well-done staples.
Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre
817 St. Paul St., (410) 752-1225, spotlighters.org
A venerable community theater that offers feisty programming in its small in-the-round space.
> Email Lee Gardner